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In 1972 I launched my very first slimming class. Click here to read how it all began.


Over the years I have had a fairly casual relationship with exercise and fitness – which may sound odd given what I have done as a job for the last 50 years!

Exercise was indeed part of what I did to earn a living. I taught exercise classes and was inspired by the music we worked out to. I enjoyed moving in time with the songs and I loved the people who attended my classes – and they paid me for the privilege. It was the perfect job.

The side benefit of all this was mental agility (remembering the routines and cueing the moves ahead for the next part of the choreography), physical fitness which helps my heart and lungs, as well as greater mobility, agility, strength and of course, spending some extra calories. But, to be honest, astonishingly, I didn’t really appreciate all those benefits at the time - but, my goodness, I do now.

Reading Mary’s comment in last week’s Newsletter, when she admitted that her body didn’t enjoy the first 10 minutes of a ‘proper’ walk, but that after that ’breaking in’ period, she felt enormous benefits, it set me thinking. In fact, it is only relatively recently, now that I am older, that I have truly recognised the dramatic benefits of exercise.

At the gym I do about 20 minutes of cardio exercise on a bike – something I used to hate because my legs were too weak, but since walking for 30 minutes every day for over a year they are stronger and now I love going on the exercise bike! The rest of the hour is spent doing strength work, similar to what Mary teaches us on our website, but using apparatus. At the weekly classes I still teach, the exercise is quite different. It is just like working out to one of my fitness videos and incorporates total body activity working out to motivating music - reaching, bending, twisting, jumping and balancing - whilst simultaneously working our hearts and lungs. In addition, these aerobic sessions do wonders for my feet and my knees, giving them a weekly, multi-directional, workout which reduces any pain in them.

During lockdown, when my classes were closed, I developed a spare-tyre under my bust which I had never had before - and I hated it. Thankfully, this has now reduced significantly since restarting my classes. If you have one of my old videos/DVDs or want to treat yourself to one out of our shop, (which Mary will have choreographed), they all give you a brilliant all-over workout!

Lastly, my ballet sessions work my body in a totally different way. To do it I have to hold my core tight, improve my posture and improve my ability to balance. Only practise makes perfect and I have a long way to go, but it all adds up toward a weekly campaign to keep me strong into old age.

In fact, never before have I so looked forward to going to the gym, doing my classes and doing my ballet sessions. If I am unable to go for any reason, I really feel the difference. I now realise that I need all of those workouts because, in their different ways, they keep my arthritic feet operational, my body fit and my weight constant, so I can live a full, active and happy life.

Recipe of the Week

Serves 4
Per serving: 261 calories, 1.1% fat
Prep time 20 mins
Cook time 25 mins

125g old potatoes, peeled
100g sweet potatoes, peeled
200ml semi-skimmed milk, plus extra for mashing potatoes
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
185g mixed chunky boneless fish (eg cod, hake, haddock)
1 tbsp cornflour
small tsp vegetable stock powder
2 tsp horseradish sauce
½ tsp Dijon mustard
a little rapeseed oil spray, for baking
1 vegetable stock cube
black pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6.
  2. Cook the old and sweet potatoes in a pan of boiling water with the vegetable stock cube, then drain and mash, adding a little cold milk and the chopped parsley.
  3. Cut the fish into bite-sized pieces and place in the bottom of a small/medium ovenproof dish.
  4. Mix the cornflour with a little cold milk to a paste, then heat the remaining milk in a saucepan. When hot, whisk in the cornflour paste to thicken the sauce. Stir in the stock powder, horseradish and mustard and season with freshly ground black pepper. Pour this over the fish and level the top with the back of a spoon. Cover with the mashed potatoes, smooth over with a fork then lightly spray with oil spray.
  5. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown.
  6. Serve hot with fresh vegetables.
For more recipes click here to visit the website

Fun, Facts & Fitness from Mary Morris MSc.

Over so many years of working with the general public I have always known about the 'love-hate' relationship that many have with exercise.  A common cry was 'I hate exercise but I know I have to do it'.

In those early days, for women particularly, their motivation to do it was because it was associated almost entirely with weight loss and body shape.  Now that we are older, those two key reasons are still relevant for us, but it is also about so much more, as Rosemary has made clear in her piece this week. 

The enormous 'shift' that has taken place over the last couple of decades is the variety of different activities that are now available and accessible to all of us, any time, any place.

A truly holistic approach to leading an active life has developed and surely it must be that every one of us can find something we want to do.  I remember in those early days when women were reluctant to use the gym for fear of developing huge muscles like a weight-lifter! They had to be persuaded that its main outcome would in fact be a firm and toned body.  Now we are older, and as our muscles naturally reduce in size and strength, that strength work has become the cornerstone of what we recommend. Strong muscles will help with all our daily activities and keep us leading an independent life for longer.

Rosemary's view on how she now feels about exercise in older age is inspiring for us all.  Her variety of training is key here as each activity works the body differently. Our weekly challenges always urge you to 'mix your moves' to give you that whole-body fitness that is so important as we grow older.  Here are your important areas to focus on every week:

Your Joints
Every morning, when I wake up, I spend a couple of minutes scrunching up my toes and flexing my ankles as well as explosively making a fist and opening the fingers wide...very weird I know, but these are the micro joints that will stiffen considerably unless we keep them moving and first thing in the morning is the golden time for this.

Arthritis is our enemy and we have to fight the battle to keep ALL the joints moving every day.  The major joints of the shoulders, hips and spine, including the neck, are the ones that we focus on with any exercise routine and any warm-up in our exercise videos as well as in our Pilates programmes.

Your Bones
I met a lady many years ago who hated walking but loved swimming, so she drove to the swimming pool 3 times a week and did lots of swimming.  She was a slim and very fit looking lady and there is no doubt she had good cardio fitness but she was doing very little for her bones as swimming is non-impact.  Walking is good for maintaining good bone density of the hips but if you add those little jumps we recommend so often, you will strengthen the bones of both the hips and the spine! (Add some slow jogging on your walks and the ‘load’ on your bones is even more effective).

We also want to ensure you load all the key areas, keeping your other bones of the body strong too - such as the wrists with press-ups and the spine with back-extensions. You will find lots of useful suggestions on the Strength and Toning page of the website.
Your Heart and Lungs
A recommendation worth pursuing for your heart health is to get out of breath at least once every day.  A lot of research has now been done on short bursts of activity (High Intensity Interval Training or HiiT) demonstrating remarkable improvements in the function of the heart.  So, your regular 30+ minute walk is valuable but don't forget to give yourself that extra ‘push’ at a faster pace or going uphill occasionally which will help you to get to the bottom of those lungs!

Your Muscles
Your muscles are your best friends. Why? Because, with just a little bit of effort, they very quickly work better and harder for you.  Studies show that, even in the frail elderly, they see incredible improvements in muscle strength following a strength programme, leading to them being able to participate in activities they thought they had lost forever.  That must feel amazing!  Those who regularly follow a strength programme improve their shape significantly too – and at any age!  And let's face it, if we look good, we feel good!
Your Motor Fitness
The enormous benefit of doing an aerobic or dance class is not only the improvement in your cardio fitness but also for your brain and your ‘motor fitness’. This is all about your ability for your brain to talk to your limbs. It is the ability to change direction frequently - transferring your weight from side to side, coordinating the use of legs and arms to follow the choreography, and in time with the beat of the music - these are our ‘motor skills’. The great thing is that even if you are lacking in this department, it is a trainable skill.  With regular practise, before long, you won’t feel you have two left feet and disconnected arms!

Your Posture and Balance
Rosemary uses ballet to train her body in this important area.  I use Pilates.  Whatever you do you need to add in some balance work regularly even if it is just standing on a Balance Cushion once a day.  Our Balance Exercises video gives you comprehensive testing of your balance and shows you how to improve it.

So, Rosemary leads the campaign trail with her weekly exercise regime which is rather remarkable for someone who has suffered asthma all her life and is now in her mid-70s.  We have a remarkable mentor folks so let's go some way in matching what she does and join her campaign... I'm in!

This Week's Fitness Challenge

  1. Select an exercise video 3 times this week.  All those elements of fitness mentioned above are worked in every programme.
  2. Go to the website and look at The Foot Workout and The Hand Dance. Learn some of those moves and practise them while watching the TV or, like me, in bed every morning.
  3. On your daily 30-minute walk check that you get out of breath at least once every walk.  It only needs to be brief!
Did you know...

This Newsletter is being issued on Friday 13th.
So why are some people so superstitious about that date?

One folklore historian suggests that the unlucky nature of the number "13" originated with a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party in Valhalla. The trickster god Loki, who was not invited, arrived as the 13th guest and arranged for Höðr to shoot Balder with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. Balder died, and the whole Earth got dark. Bad stuff!

Christians can sometimes relate the number to the story of Jesus' last supper and crucifixion in which there were 13 individuals present on the 13th of Nisan (the first month of the religious year in the Jewish calendar.)

Other reasons for perpetuating the myth can always be found by those looking for "unlucky things" to happen at a particular time. While there is evidence of both Fridays and the number 13 being considered unlucky by some, there is no record of the two items being specifically linked together before the 19th century and in other countries other mixes of days and dates seem to have acquired the same reputation.

Stay safe if you suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia!

And finally...

When we were younger, we didn’t ache and we were naturally strong and agile, but as we age things begin to creak a bit. I remember one of the male trialists from when I was researching my original Hip & Thigh Diet book, who wrote to me saying ‘I no longer puff when I go upstairs or grunt when I do up my shoes’. Hopefully, if you follow the advice we offer on our website, you too will no longer need to puff or grunt!

Have a great week.

With love and best wishes,

Rosemary Conley CBE DL


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